Delle Donne deserved to be the unanimous MVP.
No WNBA player in history had ever recorded a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Until Elena Delle Donne did that and then some on 52/43/97 splits. No team in WNBA history had ever won 13 games of a 34-game season by 20 points or more. Until Delle Donne led the Washington Mystics on a path of destruction. No team had ever torched defenses for 112.9 points per 100 possessions. Until Delle Donne’s hyper-efficient stroke shot broke open the record books.
Delle Donne did it all in a knee brace from the bone bruise that nearly took her out of the 2018 playoffs. She finished the half the season in a mask from the broken nose she suffered in July. Nothing fazed her. She was decidedly the league’s MVP by any measure available, eye test or stats nerds be damned.
And still, she was robbed of her deserved unanimous MVP label. Again. And that sucks. Big time.
This year, 43 voters made up of national writers, local reporters, and broadcasters cast ballots. Forty-one of them — myself included — chose Delle Donne for MVP. The other two? They chose Courtney Vandersloot as MVP, and voted Delle Donne ... third. THIRD. They claimed two players were better than her this year.
Two votes cost Delle Donne from a badge of honor she deserved: unanimous MVP. Though Delle Donne, an overly-humble superstar, won’t care much for the two stray votes, it’s still frustrating to see. Especially since this is the second time she’s been unfairly held from the the “unanimous” title. When she won the MVP award in 2015, she received 38 out of 39 possible votes.
This time around feels even worse, though.
EDD. HISTORY.— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) September 9, 2019
THE FIRST WNBA PLAYER TO JOIN THE 50/40/90 CLUB pic.twitter.com/FcjKDqp1qA
Follow me down the advanced stats log:
- Delle Donne finished .51 win shares per 40 minutes above the next-best player, who was her teammate, Emma Meesseman.
- At 7.7 win shares for the season, she finished 2.1 better than Jonquel Jones, who placed second in the category.
- Delle Donne’s turnover percentage was 5.9 percent despite having the 16th-highest usage percentage in the league. Despite having the ball enough to be the MVP, she turned the ball over just 30 times the entire season.
- Of all regular rotation players, Delle Donne shot the best true shooting percentage at 63.3 percent.
- Delle Donne shot 97 percent from the free-throw line. NINETY-SEVEN! She made 111 out of 114 tries in the regular season.
- Delle Donne finished second in points per game at 19.5.
- Delle Donne shot the 97 percent from the free-throw line. Delle Donne finished 14th in rebound percentage at 17.2 percent.
- Delle Donne finished 22nd in block percentage at 3.6 percent.
- Do I need to keep going?
Delle Donne passes the eye-test, too, even for the most stats-averse evaluator. She can score in isolation, she can pass out of double teams and make teammates better, she rebounds, she defends, she runs the floor well, and she’s damn fun to watch in action. Nothing about her game is purist. She’s a 6’5 guard/forward/center unicorn. From double-clutch layups to fades over her defender’s shoulder and one-handed dimes, she’s the total superstar package.
The 2019 Washington Mystics are one of the best basketball teams of all time. And they’re as good as they are because Delle Donne put on one of the best shows we’ve ever seen.
This year was Delle Donne’s. Two people can only lie to themselves otherwise.